Bihar sees 53% voter turnout in 1st phase amid Covid-19

Bihar Assembly Election: 53% voter turnout in first phase amid Covid-19 pandemic

Most voters preferred a 'gamcha', a small towel to masks and most women covered their faces with sarees

An electoral official checks body temperature of a voter as he waits to cast his ballot for Bihar state assembly elections at a polling station in Patna. Credit: AFP Photo

Bihar recorded a peaceful polling in the first phase of elections on Wednesday with 53.54 per cent of the electorate in 71 Assembly constituencies exercising their franchise. Incidentally, this was the first-ever poll held in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic and, coincidentally, most of the constituencies that went to polls today in Bihar’s 16 districts were naxal-infested.

The battle of Bihar is touted to be the fiercest one with the NDA and the Mahagatbandhan on an equally strong footing in the state.

With today’s poll, the fate of eight ministers in Nitish Kumar's government has been sealed, besides that of former Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and ex-Assembly Speaker Uday Narayan Choudhary. Both Manjhi and Choudhary have locked horns as HAM and RJD candidates respectively at Maoist-hit Imamganj in Gaya, which also shares its border with Jharkhand.

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Voters in other constituencies came out in large numbers in rural areas, taking all precautions as mentioned in the EC guidelines. Most of them preferred ‘gamcha’ (small towel) instead of masks, while women covered their face with sarees

The Election Commission, meanwhile, asked the Gaya DM to lodge an FIR against BJP minister Prem Kumar for violation of model code of conduct (MCC). Prem, who is Agriculture Minister in the Nitish Cabinet and contesting as the BJP nominee from Gaya, went to the polling booth to cast his vote with a mask on his face which had ‘lotus’, the BJP symbol, embossed on it.

The EC also ordered to lodge an FIR against Congress MLA and the party candidate from Bikram, Siddharth, for violation of model code of conduct.

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Earlier in the day, RJD MLA Saroj Yadav was attacked by unidentified miscreants when he objected to voters being pressurised by a particular political party to cast their vote in their favour. The RJD MLA’s vehicle was also damaged in the attack. “The BJP supporters have assaulted my men in Barhara, besides damaging my vehicle,” said Yadav.

The NDA, comprising the JD(U), BJP, HAM and the VIP, is in a straight contest with the RJD-led Mahagatbandhan which has Congress and three Left parties as its allies. This is also a prestige battle for Nitish, who as the NDA Chief Ministerial nominee, is seeking a fourth term as CM. On the other hand, his former deputy Tejashwi is the Mahagatbandhan Chief Ministerial candidate and is giving Nitish a run for his money in his fiefdom.

The second phase of polling is scheduled for November 3, while the third and final phase of voting will take place on November 7. Counting of votes for the 243 Assembly seats is slated for November 10.

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